Get 'Em While They're Cold! Winter Is Better for Home Improvements

Summer is vacation time, fall means back-to-school, winter's for holidays, and spring is "obviously" home improvement season. Or is it? If you choose to avoid the herd and plan intelligently, you'll find many bennies to executing a home improvement project in the cold months.

Lower Labor Costs

It's simple supply and demand -- when everyone is clamoring for their services, contractors and their subs can and do raise their rates. During leaner times, though, they are more flexible. Many builders like to keep the same crew on if possible, and doing that means they have to stay busy. When business is slow, they are likely to bid more aggressively to keep everyone working and money coming in.

Not only are contractors more likely to charge less, they are more likely to accept smaller jobs.

Better Choices

When everyone's in demand, the best builders can choose the best projects, and if you don't have a huge and profitable job to offer, you may have to settle for the guy who doesn't return calls, provides a sloppy estimate and doesn't bathe. During winter you have a better shot at getting the top-rated local talent for your renovation without nailing them down two years in advance.

Cheaper Supplies

While some building supply costs don't fluctuate much, others are definitely seasonal. Windows, retractable awnings, roll shutters, in-ground pools, patio and deck materials are among the building materials that get cheaper when the temperature drops.

Best Winter Home Improvement Projects

Landscaping

It may surprise you to learn that landscaping can be a great winter project. Many larger trees and shrubs go dormant during the winter. This allows them to "wake up" in their new homes in the spring and avoid transplant shock, reducing the chance they'll need to be replaced. Winter yards have less vegetation to work around, so you may get an additional discount on your labor.

Walkways, Concrete and Pavers

Discounts on outdoor living rooms, patios, retaining walls, pavers and decks are easy to find in many areas, and jobs can be more easily scheduled as well.

Exterior Windows (Really!)

Yes, your windows keep out the cold, and having temporary holes in your walls can be disruptive. However, good installers know how to deal with this, with careful pre-installation preparation. Depending on the type of window, your old one may only be out of the wall for five minutes before the new replacement window is popped in.

Construction that opens a portion of a structure to the outside elements constitutes an exception to the winter discount phenomenon, as weather-related issues can cause costly damage or delays, according to Xenophon Kopassis of Kopassis Homes in Virginia Beach.

But if work on one construction site encounters a weather-related delay, those contractors "may have time for a quick job" at a discount elsewhere, he explained.

The trade-off for consumers boils down to scheduling being unpredictable.

The bottom line on the bottom line: Research and compare services, prices, professionalism and expertise and then negotiate. The money's always greener on the inside of the wallet.

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